US Coins

Condition census Pitt farthing is found in Great Britain

Considered the fourth-best of fewer than 30 Pitt farthings from the 1760s, this example was brought into a UK coin shop in April.

Images courtesy of Newman Numismatic Portal.

When Martin Kent re-opened his coin shop in April after being closed for COVID-19 for many months, it didn’t take long for good things to start happening.

A customer walked into Kent’s store with a high-grade Pitt brass farthing — a rare token issued circa 1769 by a British statesman in support of the American colonies’ objections to being taxed without representation.

A Newman Numismatic Portal (NewmanPortal.org) user from the UK recently reported the discovery of the high-grade Pitt farthing, which researcher Chris McDowell ranks as the fourth finest known.

Listed among colonial issues in A Guide Book of United States Coins, the Pitt tokens commemorate William Pitt’s efforts to repeal the 1765 Stamp Tax. The obverse legends read THE RESTORER OF COMMERCE 1766 / NO STAMPS, while on the reverse THANKS TO THE FRIENDS OF LIBERTY AND TRADE encircles the border, and AMERICA is positioned near the prow of the ship.

The obverse depicts a portrait of Pitt and the reverse features a ship.

Both farthings and halfpence were issued, with the latter apparently serving as emergency money. The farthings are rare.

Little is known of their origin, which was more likely in Europe than America.

Walk-in customer

“Mr. Kent owns a small coin shop in Alford Lincolnshire, England. The first week his business was back open in April 2021, a ‘young chap’ brought this spectacular specimen into the store, along with a grouping of modern British coins left to him by his grandfather,” wrote McDowell.

“The hair detail is only matched or surpassed by the three Pitt farthings ahead of it on this census. All ten portholes are visible and it is well-struck with hard surfaces. There is an area above the foremast of the ship on the reverse that needs closer examination as it could be post-strike damage, but it is just as likely to have been present on the flan pre-strike as it has an appearance not unlike that seen on many other Pitt farthings. This specimen could not be observed in-hand because of COVID-19 and other restrictions; however, based on the weight, diameter and known details that have only been observed on authentic specimens, this Pitt farthing is authentic. It is a stunning addition to this census. The fact that it was discovered in England like so many other Pitt farthings, may put the final nail in the coffin of the belief that they were originally produced in America.”

Kent located McDowell’s Pitt farthing census published on Newman Portal, and in turn was connected by Len Augsburger, Newman Portal project coordinator, to McDowell. McDowell tells the story of the discovery in his updated census (https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/569217).

One of the examples listed below the placement of this newest entry in McDowell’s census sold for $58,750 in the 2016 Stack’s Bowers Galleries American Numismatic Association convention sale.

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